Wednesday, May 02, 2007


When I first laid eyes on the Golden Age version of the Flash, I could understand why DC Comics made such a radical upgrade for the Silver Age incarnation. Instead of the unitard, which was standard apparel for Silver Age heroes, Golden Age Flash wore light-blue chinos and a red, long-sleeved t-shirt with a yellow lightning bolt racing out of his trousers. Footwear consisted of red, ankle-high booties with little yellow wings on the sides. But the worst fashion choice was the helmet. Capes may be cumbersome for a super hero, but hats and helmets are downright silly (sorry Magneto, but it had to be said). In an attempt to suggest the mythological god Mercury, Golden Age Flash wore a silver head covering which resembled a World War I doughboy helmet, adorned with yellow wings similar to those on his feet. The whole effect was to suggest an utterly fabulous utility worker rather than a courageous crimefighter.

This older version of Flash had an origin about as silly as his outfit. College chemistry major Jay Garrick has one of those chemical accidents so common in comic books. He inhales the fumes of his concoction and develops the ability to run at super fast speeds. Instead of entering the Olympics, Jay decides that his powers are best served fighting crime, so he throws together the aforementioned costume and sets out to be a super hero.

The Flash followed the career path of many similar Golden Age heroes, making his debut in late 1939 in Flash Comics (not named after the character, but perhaps the character was named after the book title). He joined the Justice Society of America, then left the group once he got his own comic (called All-Flash to distinguish it from the regular Flash title). After World War II, his popularity, like those of his costumed colleagues, faded and the comic titles he appeared in were systematically dropped. Once he lost his own title, he returned to the Justice Society, but that group would also fade from existence in the early 50s with the cancellation of All-Star Comics. In 1956, a new version of The Flash was introduced, with a better costume, better origin, and better artwork. This is when many comic fans say the Silver Age began, and I won’t argue that assessment.

It took me a long time to figure out how to create a custom action figure based on Golden Age Flash. I couldn’t find a long-sleeved t-shirt in 1/6th scale, so I took one of my many white turtlenecks and dyed it red. The light-blue pants and belt were courtesy of a Civil War uniform. For the helmet, I started with a World War I helmet which I painted silver. By carefully cutting out sections of wing from a rubber eagle I bought at a crafts store, I had the wings for the sides, which I simply painted yellow and glued to the helmet.

The odd booties took some thinking. I ended up using the boots from an Aladdin action figure, which I painted red. For the wings, I cut yellow pieces of foam rubber into wing shapes. Not my best work, but fairly effective. For the figure itself, I needed one with a headsculpt that would suggest the way Jay Garrick was drawn in the comic since he didn’t wear a mask to disguise his face. I settled on a figure that came in ERTL’s Outdoor Fisherman set.

Keep ‘em flying, Flash!

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